Episode 4 – Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai

 

This week’s discussion: Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai, Eps. 1-3, 8-9.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

Next week’s discussion: Divorce Court, Season 17, Eps. 1-7.  Watch it on Hulu.

First of all, apologies for the slightly reduced level of audio quality on this episode.  JS was having difficulty hearing the microphone and Mike overcompensated by cranking up the gain – and forgetting to look at the test recording in Audacity (oops) – which led to a great deal of clipping and what ended up being a salvage project.  However, unlike the producers of the show we are reviewing this week, we didn’t just throw in the towel and say fuck it.  Instead, Mike worked up some elbow grease and tried his best to get this episode to an acceptable quality of audio fidelity, so hopefully the final product is at least somewhat tolerable.

As for the episode’s contents, we took a virtual trip to the United Arab Emirates for the last (and possibly saddest) installment of Paris Hilton’s My New BFF franchise.  After discussing the structure of the show and the wealthy and cosmopolitan (mostly) Middle Eastern contestants, we turn to the show’s tangled legal history and how it may or may not have led to its bottom of the barrel production quality.  We then analyze both sides of this rather ‘unique’ mashup, discussing both its representation of the Middle East, good and bad (but mostly bad), as well as the history and background of the show’s rather infamous host, Paris Hilton, and her seminal place in the history of reality TV and 21st century ‘celebutante’ culture.  Finally, we end with how this show may have actually held the promise of being something worthwhile, if only its host and production team had cared enough to film something beyond a glorified infomercial (or hell, even cared enough to hire a camera crew for an entire day of filming).

Show Notes and Links

1:39 / Introducing this week’s show

2:30 / The show’s high concept – which should be pretty self-explanatory (Paris Hilton quote)

3:15 / JS breaks down the particulars

4:34 / Mike sampled the entire BFF oeuvre

6:00 / The ‘little star’ aka the snitch

6:18 / This show is actually quite brilliant at getting these contestants to go at each other’s throats

6:45 / The show’s lexicon – ‘real and fake’, ‘hungry tigers’

8:26 / The ‘Real and Fake Challenge’ (Reality TV Ouroboros)

9:28 / Mike has a confession to make

10:03 / We begin discussing the contestants – mostly from Middle East and come from wealthy backgrounds

12:12 / Bassant – at least she’s honest

12:55 / Mike found these women to be pretty bland and interchangeable

13:24 / Amy – was not here to make friends

13:54 / Dina – Mike couldn’t figure out why the others hated her

14:46 / Reem – seemed to be most ‘traditional’ of the contestants

14:57 / Discussing the ‘cosmopolitan’ backgrounds of the contestants

16:33 / JS discusses the physicality of the contestants and how Branka and Reem departed from the mold

17:15 / Mike belatedly mentions what episodes we watched

18:30 / Reem stuck out to JS as someone who seemed more authentic than the others

19:35 / Mike breaks down the troubled legal history of the show – seems to explain a lot about it

20:58 / Why the hell weren’t the cameras in the house more often?  Lots of discussion in the show of contestants acting different on and off camera

23:19 / Talking about the INSANE level of product placement in this show – not just the Paris Hilton line, but other sponsors (the credits looked like a high school yearbook)

24:54 / Comparing Paris Hilton’s level of involvement to the other seasons of the show

26:28 / A brief digression into the font world

27:32 / Starting our discussion of the show’s ridiculous ‘1001 Arabian Nights’ stereotypes

29:05 / Edward Said’s Orientalism

29:18 / Part of the reason Mike picked this show (other than the absurdity) was an intellectual interest in cross-cultural contact

29:44 / Talking about the role of local authorities in the production of the show and how the show had to change to be compatible with local cultural mores (no alcohol or risqué clothing)

30:35 / Contrasting the Dubai version to the US version

31:06 / Mike talks about how his views on the often fraught relationship between Western and non-Western cultures have evolved since college, the book title he forgot is Modernity At Large

32:20 / Mike’s theory of why Reem was the winner

33:44 / JS hoped that this show would have more interaction between Paris Hilton and the broader Middle Eastern culture

35:21 / Paris is in less than half of each episode – mostly just shows up for challenges and eliminations

36:43 / Mike does praise the show in one respect – gives people a better view of Middle East beyond crude stereotypes of religious fanaticism

37:14 / Mike talks about his experiences with different types of Muslims in Kenya

39:25 / This show gives a view of Middle East that goes beyond a monochromatic depiction of war and suffering

40:14 / Shows the cosmopolitan side of Middle East: many contestants would fit right in to any city around the world

41:41 / The cosmopolitan emphasis is both a strength and weakness of the show

42:34 / Focusing on those in the Middle East who are ‘more like us’ might have been the only entry point for this show’s audience (and is also conveniently the target audience for Paris Hilton’s line)

43:34 / JS hoped the show would be more like ‘An Idiot Abroad

44:08 / This show does once poke fun at Western stereotypes even as it relies on them

45:32 / Paris Hilton’s background and career history

46:52 / The Simple Life

48:23 / Discussing the temporal specificity of her fame

48:58 / Paris Hilton as a seminal figure in reality TV

49:44 / Mike compares her rise and fall to the subprime housing boom (Hilton interview in GQ)

50:21 / ‘One Night in Paris (Hilton): Wealth, Celebrity, and the Politics of Humiliation

51:20 / Does her fame come from love or hate?  Who is doing the loving and hating?

52:41 / Trying to pin down her class appeal; Mike thinks she reminds him of (pre-politics) Trump

53:48 / JS argues that, at least in international terms, her appeal is to an upscale audience

54:50 / We stumble around in the dark trying to figure out where her merch is sold (Mike did post-podcast research: You can at least buy her fragrances at Walmart)

55:20 / Moving from humiliation to adulation and the cult of celebrity; this series represents that

57:20 / Paris Hilton as an icon for ‘new money’

57:35 / This show seemed a little North Korean – particularly with the penthouse décor

58:58 / Trying to figure out the motivations of the contestants – no tangible grand prize

59:30 / Paris Hilton has no real accomplishments – what’s the motivation for getting to know her?

1:00:28 / JS thinks most of these contestants went in with no illusions – and maybe the hope for a few connections or a good word in the future

1:02:12 / What the show is selling the audience in terms of being Paris’ BFF

1:02:38 / JS mentions that some contestants might have been overconfident and ‘caught up in the moment’

1:03:32 / Wrapping up with how this show could have been better

1:04:08 / Yet another digression into the shoddiness of the post-production

1:04:50 / Mike wishes this focused more on the contestants’ backgrounds; wonders how much the production problems played a role

1:06:05 / Even those outside the Middle East could have had interesting backgrounds

1:06:55 / The ‘story challenge’ gave a quick glimpse into the backgrounds of some of the contestants and gave them a little more depth

1:07:35 / JS wonders if the similar backgrounds of the contestants was a weakness

1:09:03 / We both agree they should have been filled out some more (the press release I mentioned)

1:09:41 / Mike thinks the most interesting thing about these women are their hybrid backgrounds and having to navigate between ‘traditional’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ sides

1:10:50 / The show touches on ‘Americanization’ a bit with Dina, but doesn’t really go into great depth

1:12:40 / We are on Stitcher (please rate us!) and have a website on WordPress (you are already here)

1:13:30 / Introducing next week’s show, Divorce Court: Feel free to email us any particularly good episodes from Seasons 16-18: 42minutesofreality AT gmail DOT com

Episode 1 – America’s Most Smartest Model

 

This week’s discussion: America’s Most Smartest Model, Eps. 1-3.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: The Only Way Is Essex, Season 18, Eps. 1-3.  Watch it on Hulu.

Our very first episode!  We introduce the format and goals of the podcast as well as discussing our previous experiences with reality TV and our preconceptions of it going into the show.  We then get to the meat of the episode where we discuss the show’s humor, product placement, outdated technology, reliance on stereotypes, and gender/body politics.  We also speculate as to why this show failed to be renewed and delve into what makes a reality TV series successful.

Show Notes and Links

1:20 / Introducing our show’s format and goals

3:32 / Our experiences with reality TV and our reality TV touchstones

JS: Survivor (season 1), American Idol (season 5), COPS

Mike: Blind Date, The Jerry Springer Show, Jersey Shore, Mike’s Challenger moment and possible new reality TV show pitch

9:22 / Our preconceptions and stereotypes of reality TV

11:07 / Gender and Reality TV fights

12:23 / Our (not very extensive) experiences with America’s Next Top Model, Mike mentions Tyra Banks’ Oprah rip-off

13:11 / Concept of America’s Most Smartest Model

14:14 / The show’s judges

14:50 / The ‘point’ of the show

15:34 / Questions about the contestant interview process

16:10 / This is not a show about merit

17:00 / Issues with pacing and questions about timescale

18:23 / The show’s body politics

20:53 / Back on topic with discussion of the contestants

26:25 / Stacking the deck on gender and ‘dumb model’ stereotypes

27:37 / Mike’s theory on the dominant ideology of reality TV

28:47 / JS thinks the show is reminiscent of the movie Zoolander

29:20 / Celebrates modeling industry despite poking fun at stereotypes, Product placement

31:13 / Mean-spiritedness of show’s humor, fashion industry; is it a hallmark of reality TV?

33:24 / Mike preferred the meanness being channeled into zany challenges rather than mean comments (He also forgot to mention the commercials they had to film while taking an ice-cold shower, that was funny too)

34:41 / Being put off by some of the show’s gender politics, particularly Mary Alice’s dismissive response to a contestant’s concerns about being approached by male strangers (she’d get pilloried on Twitter if this show aired today) and Ben Stein’s leering

36:03 / They’d have to take the smartphones away if they re-did this show today

37:35 / Reveling in the shittiness of this show’s video post-production quality, Mike mentions the 90’s vintage VH1 show Pop-Up Video

39:20 / The show’s bipolar attitude towards the fashion industry’s relationship to sex, Mike thinks Mary Alice needs to get off her high horse

41:30 / Mike thought that the show’s attempt to change gears and get us to sympathize with the participants in the finale was a failure

42:06 / JS compares the narrative arc of reality TV competition to horror

42:57 / Discussing the finale

44:40 / Mike hadn’t seen a reality TV competition finals with two ‘designated villains’ (admittedly drawing from a limited sample)

45:15 / Who we found (kind of) sympathetic and our difficulties sympathizing with the contestants, Mike mentions the Grand Guignol Theatre

47:13 / Mary Alice’s myopic attitude towards non-modeling interests

51:05 / The Wikipedia page for the show

51:23 / Reality TV as a ‘springboard’ to notoriety

52:43 / The Calvinball-esque quality of the competition element and Mary Alice’s odd “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” attitude and strange judging criterion

54:31 / Mike has a grander theory about the show; JS is skeptical

55:14 / Discussing why this show was not renewed; JS thinks the lack of fairness in the competition undermined the show’s prospects

57:32 / Would playing it straighter have helped?

57:57 / The ‘Borat’ problem; if the show is successful, it’s harder to replicate because everyone is in on the joke

59:02 / Is the show too gimmicky to sustain itself beyond a season?

1:00:04 / JS thinks celebrating success is an integral part of successful reality TV competition

1:00:51 / Mike thinks the show lost steam because it became more of a ‘regular’ modeling show as it went on, but thought it had fun moments with the creative challenges

1:02:41 / JS thinks the most successful moments were the challenges that forced the contestants to be creative

1:03:50 / The answer to what would make this show succeed: America’s Next Top Model

1:04:30 / The ‘novelty Christmas album’ of reality shows; works best as a one-off

1:05:10 / Why people come back to new seasons of reality TV shows, JS mentions the show Chopped

1:05:55 / This show doesn’t celebrate success, but failure

1:07:13 / Mike liked this show more than JS because he likes watching people fail

1:08:06 / Comparing this show to Top Chef (or more accurately, Mike’s second-hand impression of Top Chef), Trade-offs of focusing on humor v. competition, accessibility vs. sustainability

1:10:01 / Failure can be sustainable, but needs variation

1:10:46 / Mike found some weeks of competition worked better than others on a merit-level, but the bogus competitions sometimes led to entertaining results

1:11:41 / Discussing the humor of the quirks of some of the contestants

1:15:02 / Reality TV humor and ‘creative editing’

1:16:09 / Mike goes on a tangent about Jersey Shore (get used to this)

1:17:10 / JS wraps up with a discussion of gender stereotypes and humor, picks on the poor women and their laughter

1:18:42 / Signing off and announcing next week’s show